Holy Father gives us some homework! Print
Thursday, Oct. 01, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

This past week, many of us enjoyed watching and listening to Pope Francis as he visited the United States.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we welcomed the Holy Father into our offices, classrooms, and homes.

I thought the media coverage — including much of the secular media — was outstanding. I even saw Bishop Robert Barron and George Weigel on MSNBC! And what a treat to listen to Fr. Francis “Rocky” Hoffman on Relevant Radio explain details of the papal Masses.

Many themes permeated the talks and homilies given by Pope Francis, including respect for all of creation from womb to tomb, protection of the earth, the importance of marriage and family life, dialogue with those of differing beliefs, and working for justice and peace in the world.

Assigning some homework

But one message I wrote down and will remember was given when Pope Francis talked with students at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in the East Harlem area of New York City. While apologizing for taking the students from their studies, the Holy Father ended up assigning them some homework.

He said, “Please don’t forget to pray for me, so that I can share with many people the joy of Jesus. And let us also pray so that many other people can share the joy like yours.”

Praying for the Holy Father

About the first assignment to pray for the Holy Father, this is something Pope Francis asked the crowd in St. Peter’s Square right after his election in 2013. I can remember how quiet the square became, and those of us watching on television were somewhat surprised that the pope asked us to pray for him.

In August of 2013, a foreign journalist asked  Pope Francis aboard the papal plane on a return flight from Brazil, “Holiness, I want to ask you why you ask so insistently that we pray for you? It’s not normal, usual, to hear a pope ask so much to pray for him.”

Pope Francis answered, “I’ve always asked for this. When I was a priest, I asked for it, but not so frequently. I began to ask for it with a certain frequency in my work as bishop, because I feel that if the Lord doesn’t help in this work of helping the People of God to go forward, one can’t . . . I truly feel I have so many limitations, so many problems, also being a sinner – you know it! – and I must ask for this. But it comes from within! I also ask Our Lady to pray for me to the Lord. It’s a habit, but it’s a habit that comes from the heart and also from the need I have for my work.”

If we haven’t already, I encourage everyone to pray for Pope Francis every day. I always begin my time in Eucharistic Adoration praying for the Holy Father — he’s at the top of the list!

Sharing the joy of Jesus

As for his second piece of homework, sharing the joy of Jesus with others is definitely something we all should strive to do. Pope Francis himself literally glows with joy. We saw him smile constantly, especially as he interacted with people. His smile was especially warm for children, the elderly, and disabled persons. He went out of his way to greet them, often touching them and blessing them.

Pope Francis reminded us that when there is joy, Jesus is present. Jesus wants to help us find joy every day. He warned the children in East Harlem that someone wants to sow distrust, envy, evil desires, and stealing dreams. It’s the devil who sows those things. “He does not want us to be happy,” Pope Francis told the children.

While Pope Francis urges us to be happy and spread joy, that is not always easy as we face challenges in our families, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, and even in our churches. But if we are truly followers of Christ, we know he will be with us. And he will help us be joyful and share our faith with others.

Then we can work for all the other things that Pope Francis mentioned, including preserving the right to life, building a just society, fighting for religious liberty, protecting our environment, and helping the poor and vulnerable.

If we do all these things with joy and love in our hearts, we will succeed. And we can tell Pope Francis that we are working on our homework — but we won’t really finish it until the end of our lives!